It is really hard to put into words my experience as Paul’s crew member/pacer for Western States 2012. I am not the most poetic or prolific writer. The only word that comes readily to mind is ‘epic.’ I’ve never had an experience that was so simultaenously exhausting and exhilarating.
In order to fully understand, we have to go back 10+ years. I had just graduated medical school and was entering active duty in the Army to start my residency in Family Medicine. Paul was already in the Army and was stationed at Fort Bragg, NC where I was headed with my husband, Ryan. Shortly after arrival, I realized that I was actually going to have to take a physical fitness test which included a 2-mile run. Now, at the time, I was not a runner AT ALL (emphasis is mine). Paul and I grew up in a very active family but, suffice it to say, Paul is much more of a gifted athlete than I am. So Paul started taking me out on the trails in and around Fort Bragg. No matter how slow I went at first, he stayed with me, constantly encouraging me to run a little bit faster and go a little bit further. He made me shout, “I love hills, I eat hills for breakfast,” every time we went uphill. Needless to say, I passed my PT test and found myself getting into marathon and triathlon training within a relatively short period of time. Paul was instrumental in cultivating my love of running, especially on trails.
So now we come to 2012, I have 3 kids (5 year old twins and a 3 year old) and my husband is deployed to Afghanistan for his fourth combat tour. I decide to head on out to Western States to see my brother off on the first leg of his Grand Kona Slam. Somehow I agree to pace him for the last 7 miles. Me? Are you serious? I am much more of the tortoise-type to Paul’s hare. But, off I go anyway. I mean, what have I got to lose? After a dizzying set of pre-race instructions that was enough to make my head spin, I crashed in a fold out bed that I was sure was going to roll away in the night. We get up at 4am race morning in time to see Paul off at 5am. Then we pack up all our stuff and hightail it to the first crew aid station. What a gorgeous part of the country! Every vista was more beautiful than the next. The morning weather was miserable but I was so hyped up on caffeine and nervous energy that time just flew by. Before I knew it I was watching him go through Foresthill and Green Gate and getting ready to meet him at Hwy 49. I could tell that he was having a hard time, but he still had a great smile on his face. When we started out together, all my memories from running the trails in NC came back. I knew he was going to be hurting whether we hiked or jogged. So I just started picking up the pace, lighting the way and shouting out all the obstacles. We even got into a pretty good rhythm. It is probably the only time in my life when I will be able to run faster than Paul. By the time we got to Robie Point, Paul’s fun-meter was pegged. After one too many, “Come on, Paul’s,” he slammed his water bottle down in a way remiscent of my 3 year old. Paul so rarely loses his cool, I didn’t quite know what to do. So, a short while later, I passed him my water bottle to replace the one he broke and we continued on. I mean, what else was there to do? We had a good laugh and he eventually did pick it up to jog it on home to the finish. He even had a little extra to do his customary push-ups at the end in true Ranger style. I am so proud of my big brother. What an epic adventure